School pioneers healthy vending machine

By Patrick LowmanCRISPS, fizzy drinks and chocolate bars have been swapped for fruit, salads and pasta at a Suffolk school, which is leading the county's fight against child obesity.

By Patrick Lowman

CRISPS, fizzy drinks and chocolate bars have been swapped for fruit, salads and pasta at a Suffolk school, which is leading the county's fight against child obesity.

Pupils at Sudbury Upper School could see their waistlines shrinking after staff joined forces with Suffolk County Council to wage war on unhealthy eating habits.

The school has become the first in the county to introduce a healthy eating vending machine offering healthier food options.

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Gone are the usual fatty snacks, such as crisps and chocolate bars, and in their place is a range of fruit, salads and non-carbonated drinks, including water.

To coincide with the arrival of the vending machine, the school has opened a 40-seat coffee bar, which promotes a healthy eating theme.

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Menus available in the coffee bar do not include children's traditional favourites, such as burger and chips, but instead a range of salads, low-calorie sandwiches and filled jacket potatoes are on offer.

The school's senior catering manager, Andrew Far, said initial reactions to the new-style vending machine were promising.

“Packs of fresh strawberries have been extremely popular. The salads are packed in containers, complete with their own fork, just like you buy at the supermarkets at very reasonable prices,” he added.

“Using this type of machine means healthy food is available to the students all day, not just at break and lunchtime.

“It is not too formal, giving the students the food how they want it, and disproves the theory that youngsters of today eat only burgers and chips.”

The school decided to join Suffolk County Council's ongoing initiative to promote healthier eating in schools due to the increasing problem of child obesity.

The Department of Health launched its healthy schools scheme in 1999 after medical experts labelled the problems of child obesity as a “time bomb”.

They claimed obesity in children could lead to serious medical problems in later life, leaving them with a higher chance of developing conditions such as diabetes.

Suffolk County Council wrote last year to all its secondary schools urging them to provide healthier menus. It also requested they replace their traditional vending machines with the more healthier option.

Following a trial period last term Sudbury Upper School has become the first in Suffolk to introduce a healthy vending machine on a permanent basis.

School headmaster, David Forrest, hailed its healthier approach as a success and said all schools had a responsibility to teach students of the pitfalls of bad eating.

“There is no question students nowadays have more weight between them. There is a clear link between child obesity and conditions such as diabetes and the only solution is creating better habits,” added Mr Forrest.

“It is part of our duty to educate the whole child - we should not be totally responsible in persuading children to eat more healthily, but we an important cog in that process.

“It is not our job just to get pupils through exams, we also need to educate them on their future lives.

“We are doing a lot to promote healthier lifestyles. The vending machine is just one aspect of a whole strategy in encouraging children to eat healthier and take an active part in sports.”

He continued: “The scheme has proved very popular so far and we are having to refill the vending machine three times a day.

“I am pleased the healthy eating developments in the school have proved so popular since we see this as an important element in the broader education to ensure the pupil's future lives are healthy and productive.”

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